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After false start, Nigerian fleet committee submits report to Minister of transportation.

—–as stakeholders sceptical about implementation
The Eyewitness reporter
Despite the initial hiccups that have stalled the early implementation of the national fleet project, the federal government seems to still be pushing ahead with the laudable programme.
The project, muted in 2016, suffered a temporary setback when the Pacific International Line (PIL), a Singaporean consortium that signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Federal Government to float the shipping line, withdrew its intention to be a partner in the business.
However, despite this initial disappointment, the committee, set up by the federal government to midwife the implementation of the national project and headed by Nigerian Shippers’Council, submitted its interim report to the Minister of Transportation,  Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, in his office yesterday.
Receiving the report at the Ministry in Abuja, the Minister stated that, “Nigeria is a maritime country and if Nigeria gets its acts together, the country will have no business looking for money from the oil sector as a contribution to the GDP of the country.”
Speaking on how the project can be immediately realized, he said:
“I don’t know whether, in the course of the Committee’s consultations with other Stakeholders, you were able to have some conversations with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) because, If NNPC, can give 100 % support, this matter can be closed in two months,”
Earlier, the Executive Secretary, Nigerian Shippers’ Council,and Chairman, Nigerian Fleet Implementation Committee (NFIC),  Emmanuel Jime, said the Committee was constituted by the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, to implement the recommendations in the report by an earlier Ministerial Committee on Modalities for the Establishment of a Nigerian Fleet.
Jime who was represented by Managing Director, Sea Transport Group and member, NFIC, Umar Aminu, stated that the initiative was a way of responding to the non-participation of Nigerians in the carriage of Nigeria’s international cargo as well as the loss of freight revenue, jobs and other benefits which would otherwise have accrued to the country.
He also said: “In the course of carrying out the mandate, lessons have been learnt and some modest achievements have been recorded. These have been captured in this interim report which we are submitting today. The work is still ongoing and the goal of creating an enabling environment for the growth of a sustainable Nigerian fleet will be achieved in due course”.
Continuing, Jime noted: “There were challenges that impeded the quick realization of the project as earlier envisaged. Shipping is international and competitive in nature and Nigeria cannot operate in isolation, hence the need for the operating environment to be similar to what obtains elsewhere.
“This has been a major challenge to the growth of the sector in Nigeria. Review of certain trade policies, access to funds and technical/human capacity are issues that need to be resolved”.
It could, however, be recalled that in 2016, the federal government signed a Joint Venture (JV) partnership with PIL, on a shareholding of 60:40 for the establishment of the national shipping line.
The 60 per cent equity share was to be held by a group of indigenous shipping firms that are yet to be selected, while the remaining 40 per cent shares go to the foreign firm.
In 2018, two years after the MoU was signed, the Singaporean company withdrew from the deal, apparently because of the failure of  Nigeria to bring to the table its own counterpart funding of 60 per cent.
The erstwhile Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, blamed the PIL withdrawal on the failure of the indigenous ship owners to contribute their own share of the counterpart funding.
 Stakeholders are however curious about how the new Minister will resuscitate the botched joint venture with the PIL or any other foreign investors, some of who have complained about the unfavourable business environment in the country.
Specifically, Engineer Greg Ogbeifun, one of the foremost indigenous ship owners, revealed that the PIL pulled out because the Nigerian Fiscal Policy on the importation of vessels does not make the establishment of a shipping fleet competitive in global trade.
He listed other unfavourable fiscal policies including tax laws, tonnage tax laws, and other laws that affect international shipping, but said that a recent study conducted by local shipping firms, shows that, unlike Nigeria, most countries first declare zero duty on the importation of vessel to encourage shipping business.

“The duty payable on an average, if you are bringing in a vessel, is about 14 per cent of the value of that vessel.

” So, if you bring in a vessel of $80 million, a crude oil tanker, you will be expected to pay $80 million and then in Nigeria’s port, you have to pay 14 per cent of that value to enable you to import it,” he explained.

He noted that PIL said in their writing that Nigeria must review the fiscal policy if they must continue in the partnership because the commercial terms for carrying cargo will be cheaper for a country with zero duty compared with Nigeria with 14 per cent duty.

Industry watchers however wondered the type of magic the new Minister will perform to change the narrative given the fact that he has barely seven months in office.
“The Minister may not do much to change the narrative before he leaves given his short stay in the office.
“He has between now and December to do any serious work, because, by January 2023, the electioneering campaign will start.
“And we all know that during that period, serious government work takes the back seat.
“So, tell me, what magic can he perform between now and December, barely four months?
“His good intentions on the national fleet, disbursement of the controversial CVFF and reactivation of the Eastern ports may, unfortunately, remain an illusion which may not be realised before he leaves,” a critical stakeholder told our reporter.
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Danish court returns guilty verdict on Nigerian pirate —- remands him in prison

The Eyewitness reporter

A Danish court on Monday found a Nigerian guilty of endangering the lives of Danish military personnel in a shooting incident last November involving Denmark’s navy and a crew of suspected Nigerian pirates in the Gulf of Guinea.

However, the court declined to sentence the Nigerian, Lucky Frances, 40, despite a call from the prosecutor for a prison sentence of 12 to 15 months.

As part of international anti-piracy efforts, Denmark deployed a frigate to the Gulf of Guinea in October last year.

The following month, it intervened in an alleged attack on a commercial vessel, killing four pirates and capturing four other suspects.

“The court emphasized that the 40-year-old Nigeria, together with the other perpetrators, fulfilled all the signs of piracy and had to be described as a pirate group,” Copenhagen city court said in a statement.

Frances, who was injured during a firefight with Danish navy personnel in the November clash, was taken to Denmark for prosecution in January after being treated at a hospital in Ghana.

 Danish authorities deemed it unsafe to release him in Ghana. His leg was amputated as a result of his injuries.

Frances was exempted from any legal consequences due to his medical condition and the fact that charges against the other three suspected pirates had been dropped, his lawyer Jesper Storm Thygesen told Reuters.

Charges against the three other suspected Nigerian pirates were dropped in January after Denmark failed to find a country in the region to take them.

They were released from detention on the frigate and put to sea in a small dinghy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Frances will remain in custody until both sides have decided whether to appeal against the verdict, Thygesen said.

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Possession of NIN by passengers now requirement for boarding trains—Sambo

 

— as government shifts resumption of Abuja-Kaduna rail services to December
The Eyewitness reporter
As part of the multi-layer security measures put in place on the troubled Abuja-Kaduna train route, the federal government has announced that no passenger will be allowed to buy tickets for train services without a National Identification Number (NIN).
In addition, no minor will be allowed onboard unless registered by an adult with a NIN who cannot register more than four minors per trip.
Reviewing the security measures put in place ahead of the resumption of the Abuja-Kaduna train route, the Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Sambo, said these and other security initiatives which the government has taken are necessary to forestall the reoccurrence of the sad event which occurred on March 28th, 2022 on the route when the train was derailed by insurgents who killed and kidnapped passengers.
The minister, who on Sunday at Kaduna expressed satisfaction over the level of security measures in place, also said the steps taken so far will also stop ticket racketeering which has been the order of the day among the railway staff on the route.
The Minister also expressed confidence that the measures put in place are adequate enough for the train service to commence.” There is sensitive equipment that we have deployed that I will not reveal. The other thing I can tell you is that for every journey, the train is monitored every second on the screen.

” The train driver can see from a distance if there are any threats on the tracts that will enable him to match the break long before getting to the threat, and that is why I am telling you confidently,” said the Minister.

The Minister debunked the rumour that train services will resume on Monday, adding that the newly introduced measures will delay the resumption of business along the corridor for a few more days for passengers to get acquainted with the new protocol involved in train boarding before it will resume services.

“We have not said that train services will start tomorrow. I want to be very categorical about that.

“Now, we have introduced a new system before you buy a ticket. The purchase of a ticket requires you to provide a phone number and a national identification number in order to profile you because that is the beginning of the security checks. So at any point in time when a train moves from one station to another, we know who and who are on board.

“If you don’t have a NIN you are not going to board our train, it is as simple as that. If you are a minor, an adult will register for you and an adult can only register for not more than four minors.

“Now, we want to give sufficient time for the Nigerian public to listen to these two requirements, to assimilate this new system.

“So if you go and start tomorrow, a lot of people will be disgruntled. Why didn’t they tell us that this is a new way of doing it? Why didn’t they give us adequate time to do it? So we want to give you adequate time. Definitely between 3,4,5 days, certainly not more than a week.

Sambo assured Nigerians that a smooth and secured train ride is guaranteed while noting that the trains will not travel at night for now, while there is also going to be a review in train fares.

“I can assure you that we are a compassionate government and will consider the masses in the review of the train fare.”

We are not going to tell you what we have done. It is a security matter and I have no apologies for that.

“We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis and improve on wherever we find some snags”.

“The ticketing called e-ticketing has already been contracted to a company, called secure ID. That concession has gone through the entire concession process under extant laws, including approval by the Federal Executive Council. So that concession remains in place for the duration of the concession period, which I think is 10 years”.

Sambo said that although only God can guarantee maximum security, he assured Nigerians that everything is in place to guarantee a secured and smooth train ride.

“We are not going to tell you what we have done. It is a security matter and I have no apologies for that.

“We’ll be monitoring it on a daily basis and improve on wherever we find some snacks”.

The Minister assured that Secured ID would continue to handle the e-ticketing services.

“The ticketing called e-ticketing has already been contracted to a company called secure ID. That concession has gone through the entire concession process under extant laws, including approval by the Federal Executive Council. So that concession remains in place for the duration of the concession period, which I think is 10 years”.

The Minister was accompanied by the Minster of State for Transportation, Ademola Adegoroye; Minister of Water Resources Eng. Suleiman Adamu; Managing Director, Nigeria Railway Corporation Fidet Okhiria; Chairman Governing Board Nigeria Railway Corporation Ibrahim Musa.

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As Nigerdock recants operational breaches, FG may lift suspension on the facility

The Eyewitness reporter
The Federal Government has expressed its readiness to lift the suspension order on Nigerdock following its willingness to abide by the rules and its contributions to the growth of the National economy.
The Minister of Transportation, Mu’azu Jaji Sambo, stated this recently when he visited the firm in Lagos in the company of the Minister of State for Transportation, Prince Ademola Adegoroye and some Management Staff of the Ministry.
Addressing the Chief Executive Officer, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani and other officials of the company, the Minister pointed out that the reason why they were suspended was as a result of complaints from other Terminal Operators, saying Nigerdock had operating advantages over them.
“What led to your suspension was that I received complaints from Terminal Operators, saying that you are not on the same level with them. In the sense that they pay more to the government than you do. You’re likely to attract freight at a much lower cost to the detriment of businesses”,  the Minister disclosed.
He, therefore, urged them to liaise with Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA) to work out all the operational licenses needed to enable them to operate and the latter will forward the same to the Minister of Transportation whose prerogative it is to give approvals.
Speaking further, the Minister said: “We will never do anything to undermine the things you are doing here in terms of generating wealth and jobs for Nigerians.  The only thing we are saying is that the law should be followed. We should not encourage lawlessness “.
Responding, the CEO, Nigerdock, Maher Jarmakani, said the firm has taken notable steps in this regard as they have been granted bonded permits by the Nigerian Customs and they are currently working with Nigerian Ports Authority to ensure all processes of getting the needed approvals are followed accordingly.
“We are seeking your support Honourable Minister and that is why we wrote a letter of appeal for your guidance and your support to see that we have followed all processes and procedures” Jarmakani stated.
Furthermore, Jarmakani informed the Minister that in the 30 years of its existence, Nigerdock has employed more Nigerians than its peers, assuring that the company will not undermine the country’s extant rules and regulations.
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